Popping Up Among The Doronicum – Crocosmia

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The squeezing of HeWhoBuildsSheds’ new shed into the small back garden last year meant the loss of a herbaceous border. I didn’t mind too much, although it was a challenge to find new homes for the plants. Some were sacrificed altogether; some were thrown over the hedge to take their chances; some were planted outside the back fence in the guerrilla garden, some were put in next door’s guerrilla garden (I’ve started a trend) and others were just put somewhere.

Then in the spring, as soon as the tulips were over, Shed Development Phase 2 was thrust upon me. This meant moving more plants in order to create enough space to turn one flat bed into a raised bed so that the shed could have its own gravel forecourt and thus be accessible in all seasons. This also included digging up what was left of the lawn. The upshot of this HouseThatJackBuilt ‘school of gardening’ (fortunately no cows’ horns were crumpled in the process) is that much of what is happening out there now is a complete surprise.

For instance, I have no memory of how this crocosmia arrived among the doronicum. On the other hand, I do feel I need to give it a round of applause for cutting such a horticultural dash. Well put, that flower, however you got there.

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Six Word Saturday

Please visit Debbie. This week she has some handy advice!

Out In The Garden Bee-Dazzled And Bee-Dizened And Bees Showing Their Knees

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I popped out in the garden at lunch time, armed with my little Canon Ixus, and found it was all go on the bee front. The header flower, Helianthus Capenoch Star was proving very popular. I’d only bought it the other day, to go in the back of the flower bed that I said was ‘officially full’, and it is still in its pot, waiting for a slightly cooler moment to plant it out. In the meantime, it is being much visited. But then that goes for most of the other flowers: zinnias, cosmos, liatris, doronicum, echinacea, rudbeckia, and the self-sown purple toadflax. So many happy buzzing souls.

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And then there was also the hoverfly:

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Into The Field of Lost Content…

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…marches Graham with his morning mug of coffee. A touch eccentric perhaps. But then if you have a handy field you can walk into from the house, and the sun is shining, why not?

Actually we always get excited when the farmer harvests Townsend Meadow. We watch over the crop, usually wheat, but this year oil seed rape, for the whole year. And then comes a brief interlude before the ploughing and re-sowing when we feel we can rush out there and romp. In Graham’s case the romping is a purely cerebral activity as you may judge from this contemplative pose.

We could, however, have done without Wednesday night’s momentous dust storm that followed the combine harvester. The crop looked totally desiccated before it was cut, and the seed pods wizened, and now we are left with a desert of chaff that lies in deep drifts between the stalks. Please, weather gods, keep your stock of gales, winds, and even light zephyr breezes well contained otherwise we might have to hoover the garden. And ourselves too.

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Six Word Saturday

Please visit Debbie and her v. stylish ATM

Townsend Meadow ~ Waiting For Rain And A Bit Of A Ramble About Wild Oats

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Last night as I was watering at the allotment, dark clouds were building up in every quarter. I was sure it was going to rain. But no. By 8 pm they had moved off, leaving a strange red mist effect over Wenlock Edge. Beneath it the rapeseed crop is tinder dry and a deepening shade of copper. The wild oats on the path edge are ripening too – their cuneiform seed heads turned from green to pale ochre. I’m becoming a bit obsessed with trying to photograph them. They seem to reflect light that lends itself to a touch of abstraction.

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The Wild Oat Avena fatua  is of course the parent plant of our cultivated oat and fully edible. It possesses the same valuable B vitamins and minerals: manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, and chromium. Oats are very soothing to the system, apparently reducing inflammation. They also contain powerful antioxidants and are rich in fibre.

Wild oats, however, are considered a crop pest, especially in wheat, reducing the crop by up to 40%. They are also becoming resistant to herbicides, which fact certainly seems to be supported by their continued presence in Townsend Meadow, where they receive lots of herbicide doses every year. This is rather making me think that we should all be eating oats instead of wheat – without added glyphosate that is. Some of us might start feeling a lot better than we do after eating wheat products.

My Derbyshire farming ancestors seemed to have lived on oats, turned into tasty pancake-like oat cakes and made from a slightly fermented batter. Eaten with farm-made cheese and butter of course, and doubtless washed down with homebrewed ale.  A good number of them lived into their late eighties and early nineties. Some of them were known to go in for a little prize fighting and were quite famed for their prowess in the ring – and that was only the women.

And apart from all this, a handful of rolled oats tied up in some muslin, soaked in warm water and applied to the skin with some very gentle rubbing, makes the best exfoliant scrub ever.

On Your Marks, Get Set (Wait For It)…Doronicum!

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Also known as Leopard’s Bane, and another wonderful member of the daisy family. I am not entirely sure which variety of Doronicum it is, but am plumping for D. plantagineum as this name means plantain-like in reference to the leaf shape. Most Doronicum varieties seem to have heart-shaped leaves, and flower earlier in the season than the one in my garden. But if anyone has a better idea, please tell me.

Nor do I know if this particular variety has any noteworthy therapeutic properties, but we do have a powerful lack of leopards here on Sheinton Street, so it clearly has some very active big-feline-defence ingredient. It is also standing up bravely against the hot, dry weather and, along with the drumstick alliums, is the most vibrant bloomer in the garden at the moment. Not for long though. The golden rod, which is all over the place, is about to do its stuff. I’m looking forward to the all-yellow garden.

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On The Path To The Allotment ~ Too Hot On The Plot

It was nearly 7 pm last night when I finally thought it might be cool enough to head up the field to the allotment. In places, the nettles and grasses are leaning over the path at ear-height, and the nettle stings can be vicious, even through clothing. At one point the makeshift path alongside the rapeseed crop all but disappears, and it’s a question of remembering to turn left at the opium poppy, which was fine when it was flowering redly, but not so easy to spot now it’s gone to seed. I’m beginning to think I need to go out armed with a machete. Also the ground beneath my feet is so unyielding, it is difficult to walk on; baked into unexpected ridges and contours that are hard to navigate when you can’t see the way ahead. Who would have thought going gardening could be so challenging.

Of course, I had to stop to take this photo, the sun shining through the allotment boundary hedge.

On the plot I have been trying to shelter the plants’ roots with whatever vegetation I can find up there: comfrey, horseradish leaves, even rhubarb leaves. I’m now eyeing up the goat willow tree on the neighbouring abandoned plot, thinking a little prune of its leathery foliage might make some useful shading material.

So far things are surviving – apart from the strawberries that is, and the broad beans which produced a half-hearted crop and then fainted away. The most astonishing success, at least so far, is the sweet corn. It just keeps on growing, and with scarcely any watering, which is very strange for sweet corn. I bought the seedlings by post after the seeds of my own first sowing rotted. They were tiny when I planted them out in May – no more than a hand’s width tall. Now look at them.

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They cost £2 for 20 from Delfland Nurseries which probably works out cheaper than growing them yourself from seed, and certainly cuts out the faff. I also bought some of their Iznik mini cucumber seedlings, which are now producing well in the polytunnel. The fruits are about 4 inches long when ready to pick, and delicious. The best thing is you eat the whole thing at one go, so no more squishy-cucumber-end discoveries in the fridge.

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The Black Russian tomatoes are busy fattening in the next door bed. They are now one of our favourite tomato varieties, under-sown here with dill.

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Outside, the runner beans are struggling to get up their sticks, but we’ve had our first good picking of the climbing Alderman peas. These peas are supposed to continue cropping over the season, but I’m not sure that this will happen with four more weeks of drought and heat promised. I have just planted out another lot, sown for quick germination in lengths of plastic gutter, and I shall definitely grow them again next year.

We’ve been told there is a ‘world shortage’ of lettuce in UK supermarkets. It doesn’t germinate well in heat. I have grown some of my own, but I was also very pleased that I bought a tray of ‘living salad’ lettuce from Waitrose. It was intended for cutting fresh into one’s sandwich, but I planted out the seedlings instead, outside covered with fleece and also in the polytunnel. So far it’s doing well. I reckon there were about 50 seedlings in the tray, several different varieties, so plenty of lettuce to share with neighbours.

Now for some more hot-plot shots.

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One unforeseen circumstance of the hot weather is that my piled-high compost heaps are bone dry, and are therefore doing very little rotting down. While I don’t feel I can help them along by actually watering them, I have heard that the addition of urine is very beneficial, and since most of the allotmenteers are chaps, it has occurred to me to put up ‘please pee here’ signs. All deposits gratefully received.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Strange What Comes Flying Over Next Door’s Ash Tree When You’re Eating Supper

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Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…a…a paramotor wing, and it came looming low over the new shed last night as we were eating our cream of broad bean soup. It was so very much something where you didn’t expect to have it, and also very loud, that for a moment I felt like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – you know, the scene near the beginning where a huge ship from the Vogon Constructor Fleet comes gliding over his house as a prelude to demolishing the planet:

People of Earth, your attention please.This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and, regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.

Douglas Adams The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Anyway, it turned out to be nothing so threatening, though at one point I thought the pilot had completely lost the plot as he whirlygigged for several giddy seconds over the rapeseed field. He sorted himself out though.

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No, This Is Not My Polytunnel

Polytunnel spotted on the path to Koroni, Messenia in the southern Peloponnese. And now for some more scenic Greek roofs to conclude Becky’s very entertaining June squares photo-jaunt. Didn’t we do well. And a big round of applause for Becky.

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THE END

Roof Squares 30

Six Word Saturday

Going Mazy-Eyed In A Sea Of Grasses ~ Thursday’s Special

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I took this photo last night as I was coming home from the allotment. The sun was setting over the rapeseed field and illuminating the grasses along the headland. This is a broad strip of land on the town side of Townsend Meadow, left uncultivated as a defence against flash floods. The variety of grasses that grow here is bewildering, and I’m sorry to say I have never tried to learn which is which. They are very beautiful though in the evening light.

Grasses (Gramineae) are among the most successful plants on the planet and, excluding the polar zones, cover 40% of the earth’s surface. They of course include cereal crops, rice, bamboos, and pasture grasses and so are of immense importance to humanity. Grass is also an elephant’s food of choice, making up a substantial part of its 300-400 lb daily vegetable intake. I mention that fact here because our headland grasses have so benefitted from the agrichemical feeding of the rape plants uphill from them that they are now doing a pretty good impression of elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) also known as Napier Grass. This particular grass featured in he-who-builds-sheds’ doctoral research on grass smut in the Kenya highlands, and so is a species close to our hearts, and we both know how to identify it.

Coming up is another grass I know: wild oats. The sun was reflecting off its spikelets, which was all rather mesmerizing.

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Thursday’s Special: Lost in details  This week Paula has given us an intriguing challenge and photo to match. I’m interpreting it here both in words and images Who me?

Old Allotment Shed And Artichoke

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This was my shed when I took up allotmenting eleven years ago. He who builds sheds stopped it leaking and leaning into a complete state of collapse, and I and the snails and mice were very glad of it for several years. But then two years ago I left behind the plot it stands on to concentrate on my polytunnel plot. No one has taken it over, and this year it is doing a good imitation of the prairie with elephant’s eye high grass and thistles. Rather sad after all the hours of digging I did there. But at least the shed is still standing, and this year,  the greengage tree that stands over it has quite a bit of fruit in the making. The artichoke, though, was eaten long ago.

Traces of the Past: Black & White Sunday  Please visit Paula to see her dramatic seascape